Annual Progress Report 2014
Throughout its first year of activity, the project has managed to set up the framework of activity and deploy the required resources and capabilities for successfully launching its activities and achieving the first results. Despite the administrative delay (grant transfer) of one month in the starting date of project activity, INOTLES management has mobilized in a timely manner the staff from partner universities to largely ensure the compliance with the original workplan.
Communication channels were defined early in the project timeframe, as well as the distribution of tasks and responsibilities among partner universities. A Quality Assurance manual was designed in order to define the monitoring mechanisms and developing quality assurance strategies. Each WP leader has coordinated the revision of the initial program and has produced at planning document, setting out the shawls, responsibilities, and timelines for each consortium university.
Also, an external evaluator was invited to monitor the state of project progress by attending various activities and following workpackages' (WPs) progress, contributing with practical recommendations as well as preparing a mid-term external report.
All the proposed activities and deliverables where achieved without major disruption in the flow or delay. The results of WP2 represented a ground stone for future project activities, including WP3 face-to-face and online pedagogical training of academic and IT staff from EU and PC partners. The exchange of practices and the training in innovative teaching methods, such as similes shins simulations, problem based learning, e-learning and blended learning has been successfully implemented in the second part of the year 2014, being highly appreciated as a main positive result of the project to date both by the EU and the PC partners. The first dissemination event, held in Brussels in June 2014, has reached external project audience and has raised the interest of the broader academic community as well as societal stakeholders in project. The project where portal has been launched in the first month of productivity and has been attracting over 400 users, representing both INOTLES community and external audience.
However, the project has encountered several challenges to its original workplan. Minor changes were adopted for the WP2, compressing the initial time devoted for its activities in order to ensure the deliverables before the face-to-face project meeting in Brussels, on 18–21st of June 2014. While the pedagogical training was highly welcomed by all the participants, it proved to be difficult for certain participants to follow actively this intensive learning experience either due to their primary professional commitments and lack of availability, or, in some cases, due to their digital skills or low degree of interest in e-learning and blended learning as within their own institutions.
Overall, the activities carried out within the first year of project timeframe have largely complied with the original project proposal and carried out in due time and prompt responses were given to address the emerging challenges in the due time and in the optimal way.
MId-term External Evaluation Report June 2015
By Eniko Kovacs
It is beyond doubt that INOTLES is addressing one of the most acute needs in teaching European Studies (ES) in the Partner Country (PC) universities that is the introduction and implementation of innovative teaching methods, advocating thus for active learning and interactive classrooms. It is also evident from what has been implemented so far that the partners from the European Union (EU) promulgating the use of simulations, PBL and distance/e-learning in teaching are centers of excellence of these innovative teaching methodology approaches. Their substantial theoretical and practical knowledge on the subject matter meets the interests and excitement of academics from PC institutions eager to get guidance and implement the new methods in their classrooms.
Many positive results could be accounted for even to date. The systematic trainings held by EU partners are maybe one of the most prominent achievements which already started to translate into PC participants experimenting and implementing with the new methods. However, there are still only a handful of academics active in project activities. On the long run, they (and EU partners) will have to incentivize more of their colleagues teaching ES or related disciplines in the PC partner universities. The potential and opportunities offered by the three methods and the INOTLES network in general is huge. Taking advantage and making use at the largest scale possible of the significant knowledge made available to PC participants would be crucial.
The success of planned outputs like content revision of five courses, compilation course curricula that will be taught jointly by all or successful setting up of Centers of European Studies is still yet to be seen. However the processes already started entail that the network has a high potential to achieve most (if not all) the objectives set forth by the project.
In order to reach the highest impact possible there are a couple of issues I felt should be highlighted. Some of them like a leaner communication structure or a more active use of the web-based tools (i.e. Intranet) by the participants are of a technical or management nature but they could assist a smoother project implementation. Others like the peer review of more syllabi/ content of the courses taught by PC or ‘e-classroom visits’/real-time peer feedback by EU (and PC) partners on the implementation of newly learnt teaching methods could strengthen the results achieved so far. They would translate into updated modern curricula at PC where courses are taught using innovative methods and approaches. A third type of recommendation targets the prospective setting up of CES at an earlier stage than envisaged, in order to ensure effective, well-functioning, sustainable entities (even if they are planned to be integrated into already existing structures) by the end of the project.
A summative evaluation of the outputs, the intended and unintended outcomes and the degree to which objectives were achieved will be offered in the final evaluation report at the end of the project.
Annual Progress Report 2015
Throughout its second year, INOTLES project has managed to follow closely the framework of activity, deploy the required resources and capabilities for successfully implementing its activities and achieving the planned results.
The year was overall successful and in line with initially planned activities, outputs and outcomes. Information exchange, communication and archiving have been improved through the launching of the INOTLES intranet space.
Within Workpackage 4, INOTLES staff developed teaching materials for core modules in European Studies: Research Methods, EU policy-making, EU law, EU institutions and EU external relations. Each PC university has been implementing at least one of these modules in their academic programme in 2015-2016. The core modules applied innovative pedagogies developed in WP3 and contributed to the overall modernisation of ES curricula in PC countries.
WP4.6 inter-university course represents a unique opportunity for hands-on experience with innovative teaching methods of instructors and students from all INOTLES partners. Scheduled between September 2015 and March 2016, the course is planned to finish with a student and staff mobility for a face-to-face meeting in Brussels in March 2016.
INOTLES staff has been active in disseminating project results through various strategies. Dissemination within national and international conferences and international publications were at the core of dissemination activities. Several papers are being prepared for INOTLES Papers Series and the Editorial office has been regularly circulating the call for papers internally and to the external audience.
Several major challenges were met during project implementation. The lack of e-skills of some PC staff, particularly senior staff, has caused minor challenges in the use of the official e-platform. Some of the originally identified risks, such as the level of English language and the digital literacy, have represented real challenges during the inter-university course. Also, students gave preference for more “ informal” communication channels, with which students were more familiar and had previous experience (emails, skype, google docs, etc.). But the local instructors acted as connecting points between the course coordinators and their students and have facilitated the efficient course communication.
PC partners encountered problems with buying equipment. The major challenges were the compliance to the rule of origin (EACEA TEMPUS requirements) and the tendering procedures. Some partners found a solution in changing the type of equipment (e.g. buy more books and e-journal subscription), avoiding administrative challenges with the hardware equipment.
From the management perspective, Ukrainian politico-economic context has continued to present a main challenge for project management, causing also a delay of the transfer of Ukrainian partners funds.
In sum, the activities followed closely the initial objectives and workplan. Whenever needed, measures have been taken for adjusting future activities to the realities, taking into account EACEA expert evaluation reports, the advises of national Erasmus+ offices and EACEA.